It’s common for teens that are intellectually gifted and who excel academically to experience challenges, as do teens with learning disabilities. As strange as that sounds, just like students who have academic challenges, gifted students have their own set of obstacles.
Interestingly, gifted adolescents can experience anxiety, depression, social phobias, and even academic failure. Despite their record high IQ scores, for example, they might be bored in school with their inner resources untapped. They might feel the need to fit in with their peers and put social acceptance as a higher priority than academic achievement. They may even sabotage their academic success in order to be more like their friends.
Although we want to think that those children and adolescents who are gifted will go on to lead very fulfilling and rewarding lives, there is research that indicates the tendency for gifted teens to be more prone to depression, given their differences from other children, which might contribute to unusual social and emotional challenges that other teens might not have. Gifted teens might be more sensitive, tend to be perfectionists, and have high levels of energy. These traits might contribute to feeling so different that they cannot socially or emotionally connect with others, leading to a sense of loneliness or isolation.
The SENG organization, Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted, recognizes that there are unique difficulties to being intellectually talented. Furthermore, SENG points out that teens that are gifted typically have the pattern of hiding, if they are depressed, their symptoms. Gifted adolescents are often very sensitive and can feel shame for not being able to identify the source of their feelings and for feeling like a failure socially and emotionally. During a depressive period, symptoms for gifted teens diagnosed with Depressive Disorder might experience emotional swings, unusual mental images, and spiraling thoughts. Gifted teens might also talk a lot, have high levels of energy, be impulsive, inattentive, perfectionists, and introverted.
Despite these challenges, there are ways that parents and caregivers of gifted teens can support and facilitate their child’s well being. For instance, the suggestions below can stimulate your child’s intellect and protect him or her from neglecting the gift of being smart and sabotaging his or her own success. If your child can feel good about whom he or she is now, and that includes possessing intellectual abilities, then she will feel good later in life as well.
- If there aren’t Advanced Placement (AP) classes at your teen’s high school, demand that they be made available.
- Investigate whether there are any after school or weekend enrichment classes at a local community college.
- Stock your home with books that will challenge and entertain your teen.
- Request that your school district test your child for giftedness. There are already tests for learning disabilities, which then bring those children federal legal protection. Although this isn’t the case with gifted students, there may be state legislation that protects gifted teens.
- Never lose sight of the fact that your teen needs to have friends. Although you want to encourage his or her intellectual strengths, the essence of adolescence.
- You might also find in your community, social service agencies that have a gifted teen treatment program.
Although one might not at first imagine that gifted teens would have concerns, the presence of challenges and high levels of intelligence are related. Despite their gifts and talents, the need to understand the complex inner life of gifted teens is becoming more and more evident.
(2003). Caring for Your Teenager. American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved on July 24, 2014 from: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/school/Pages/Gifted-Students.aspx
By Robert Hunt
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